off off broadway

F.I.T.R. Productions Presents “Gruesome Playground Injuries”

My childhood scrapes and stitches have nothing on Gruesome Playground Injuries, a play by Rajiv Joseph that inflicts physical and emotional wounds on its characters. F.I.T.R. Productions presents a new mounting of the play, which has not been in New York since last year’s production at Second Stage Theatre. Gruesome Playground Injuries follows childhood friends Kayleen (Jaz Zepatos) and Doug (Priyank Rastogi) from their first meeting at the school nurse’s office to their troubled adolescence and adulthood, which often takes place in hospital rooms. Doug physically falls apart after a series of violent incidents, but he never gives up on his friendship with Kayleen, even when Kayleen is determined to break away from it.

At first, it seems that Gruesome Playground Injuries has much to say with its gory concept. The graphic nature of Doug’s wounds, though not fully depicted on stage, are still shocking to hear described. Even more shocking is Kayleen’s reactions to his injuries. She is fascinated by them, even going so far as wanting to touch them. (My inner germaphobe winces at the idea.) But underneath the bloody trappings is just another relationship play where things never quite work out. Kayleen spends the majority of the play pushing Doug away, and it is never explained why that is the case. (A “she’s just not that into you” would have sufficed.) Neither is Doug’s constant need to thrust himself into dangerous situations that nearly cost him his life. While the morbid metaphor is present, more can be said in Gruesome Playground Injuries about relationships and the pain they can cause.

Photo by Chananun Chotrungroj.
Doug (Priyank Rastogi) and Kayleen (Jaz Zepatos). Photo by Chananun Chotrungroj.

Though the source material could use more development, F.I.T.R. makes a capable go of it. Priyank Rastogi plays Doug with so much charm that I wanted to hug him (and offer him a life-time supply of bandages). As Kayleen, Jaz Zepatos takes on the challenge of playing someone who has difficulty connecting to others while imbuing the character with vulnerability. Set design by Laura Moss provides an ominous complexity to the production, as hanging wire forms, wearing the characters’ costumes, line the stage walls. We never quite see the inner workings of Rajiv Joseph’s characters, but we can appreciate how dark and dysfunctional they can be.

“David and Katie Get Re-Married” at The PIT

David and Katie are a picture of wedded bliss… if your definition of marriage is, say, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder sticking together for fifteen more years, getting tattoos of each other’s names and painfully removing them after every fight. David and Katie have invited you and a room full of other complete strangers to witness their re-marriage ceremony (“the second happiest day of their life”), because frankly, no one else would go. Their family and friends have already witnessed this unsuitable union once. They’ve learned their lesson, even if David and Katie have not.

Katie Hartman and David Carl star in “David and Katie Get Re-Married”

That they haven’t learned their lesson is clear from the couple’s first scene together, an awkward and drawn-out dance with both Katie and David in body-hugging black underwear obliviously in love as they make half-attempts at lifts and twirls. The couple have elected a new approach to their re-wedding ceremony. They’ve collected a list of new age practices this time around to solidify their partnership. Of course, nothing goes off quite as planned. There’s a ritual of accepting praise and criticism from your partner as s/he caresses your face with a feather (in the instance of praise) or pokes you with a stick (in the instance of criticism). David and Katie struggle admirably to praise each other, but criticism comes too easily. Then, there’s the Balinese butterfly release which, given that it involves a living, breathing animal, goes horribly wrong.

Both David Carl and Katie Hartman are veterans of the comedy stage. We reviewed Carl’s Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet, a highlight of last year’s Fringe, and Hartman is part of the sketch comedy duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting. Carl and Hartman wrote the script and music for this production, which is directed by Michole Biancosino.

Part of what made Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet so exciting was the level of discomfort the audience felt at watching one clearly incapable man work very hard to put together an extraordinary, albeit unusual and darkly comic, feat of theater. Here, in David and Katie Get Re-Married, we’re seeing something similar: two people who are clearly not meant for the task they’ve taken upon themselves (marriage) struggle (and slip) to piece together something special. It’s an inspired concept for a comedy show that celebrates persistence in spite of terribly obvious shortcomings.

David and Katie, however, is not so tight a production as Hamlet, and the laughs of discomfort in the audience were equally at David and Katie’s comedic efforts to renew their love as at the show’s strangely slow pacing. There were times where David and Katie seemed to lose track of the humor and the scene became unnecessarily long without the joke hitting its mark. There was also a third character whose unusual backstory could have been worked into the show in a more fruitful way. My favorite moments of the show were the original songs, which reflected a wide range of styles and topics (both humorous and emotional) and propelled the story elegantly. I look forward to seeing how David and Katie continue to develop this production– Here’s to knowing their future is brighter than that of their stage personas!

Bedlam’s ‘Twelfth Night’ Double Bill Emphasizes the Play’s Mutability

Economy is the name of the game in Bedlam’s two new productions of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, one titled Twelfth Night (or What You Will) and the other What You Will (or Twelfth Night), playing in rep at the Dorothy Strelsin Theater.  Five actors play at least a dozen characters with only everyday outfit accessories to tell them apart. A trusty knit cap differentiates Sir Andrew Aguecheek from Olivia, both played by Susannah Millonzi in the first production. A long folding table and chairs are the only set pieces, used with keen versatility; otherwise the actors use the theater’s natural structure, as well as an empty house seat or two to liven up a scene. The text is likewise economized, slimmed down to a speedy two hours without intermission. And yet, even with the productions’ restraints, never before have you seen a production that so thoroughly and efficiently brings a classic play to life.

Instead of choosing to produce two different, thematically-related plays in rep, as they did with last year’s critical hits, Saint Joan and Hamlet, Bedlam brings us two interpretations of the same play. It’s a practice hardly ever seen in performance. Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein might have accomplished something similar by alternating Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein and the Monster, commenting on the nature of the creator-creation relationship and, from what I hear (I only saw one showing), showcasing two quite different performances in either role. Twelfth Night and What You Will, however, are two entirely separate productions, each with its own tone, direction, casting, costumes, staging, etc.

This Twelfth Night combo works as an something of an intellectual exercise for theater practitioners and lovers. According to Artistic Director Eric Tucker, the former play portrays love as “extrememly hard, but in the end magical and rewarding.” What You Will, on the other hand, emphasizes the “maddening” and destructive nature of love. Part of the legacy of Shakespeare’s play is its profound duality: Twelfth Night is hilarious, crass, and farcical, but it also has somber reflections on the nature of loneliness, grief, and death. Its comedy always has a piercing edge.  If you fall in love thinking that your lover is someone. is that truly love? Are the laughs bought at Malvolio’s expense worth the utter humiliation and belittlement he suffers? Twelfth Night reminds us consistently of the characters’ suffering, offering beautifully emotional soliloquys and songs. It manages to simultaneously be one of the the funniest and most melancholy of Shakespeare’s works.

Because of Bedlam’s critical approach to the text, it’s not exactly kind to new Shakespeare audiences. Expositional information is hurried and the changing roles only complicates this already intricate plot. At one point, paper dolls are used in an attempt to populate a crowded, fast-paced scene, but the the scene only falls flat and charmless. Some of the soliloquys were short-changed in the scattered rush, as was some of the play’s emotional resonance. In fact, some of the most expressive scenes resulted not from an emotional rendition of the text but rather from smart uses of light and staging. A portable floodlight fills the play with visual power, expertly drawing your gaze and illuminating/shadowing the characters with symbolic depth. It lends the plays an almost filmic quality; it reminded me of the way that a camera guides your eye gently and intimately.

Director Eric Tucker performs as Viola in the Twelfth Night (Or What You Will), while Andrus Nichols (lauded for her performance in last year’s shows) plays Orsino. I’m not sure why the gender switch is included in this production, especially since not much is made of the switch. While Tucker and Nichol are entrancing and expert performers, the gender switch could be considered as hetero-normalizing the play. Gender readings of the play suggest queerness in Olivia’s attraction to the disguised Viola, but here, the attraction is between a man (Tucker) and a woman (Millonzi). I know a certain literature professor who’d be displeased.

I recommend seeing the play for the performances themselves. Each actor seamlessly engenders their multiple roles. And between the two versions, they must have over three-quarters of the play memorized. This inventive, intellectual, and forward-thinking pair of productions are delightful, and I would love to see more deconstructive works like these come to light.

‘Leave Me Green’ Forges Its Own Family

Leave Me Green’s depiction of a nontraditional family plagued by loss in New York City is a richly colorful one.  Lisa DeHaas’s new play, directed by Jay Stull at the Gym at Judson, is a realistic and emotionally resonant picture of how one finds community in times of grief in the unlikeliest of places.

Oscar A.L. Cabrera as Gus Green, Charlotte Booker as Rebecca Green, Emma Meltzer as Lia Vaughn. Photo by Russ Rowland
Oscar A.L. Cabrera as Gus Green, Charlotte Booker as Rebecca Green, Emma Meltzer as Lia Vaughn. Photo by Russ Rowland

The central relationship of the play lies between Rebecca, a faded soap opera star now selling Manhattan real estate, and her son Gus, a thoughtful teenage boy with a penchant for music. They have lost their partner and mother Inez, killed in the Middle East while serving in the U.S. military’s IT management team. Rebecca (played by Charlotte Booker) has become an alcoholic and Gus (Oscar A. L. Cabrera) is in the uncomfortable position of caring for the his mother’s needs at the same time as dealing with his own grief. Rebecca is a negligent, if not neglectful, parent. By mid-morning, she already has alcohol on her breath and she struggles to complete simple tasks like setting a timer for the oven or remembering her keys. She masques her suffering with a happy-go-lucky attitude, losing sight of the fact that her son needs her support and structure in their time of need.

Gus finds human connection elsewhere. His neighbor Myron (Michael Gaines), an easygoing pot dealer across the hall, shares his passion for music and takes him under his wing. Myron, however, has an uneasy relationship with Rebecca, signaling a past kept hidden from Gus. Gus also meets Lia (Emma Meltzer) at Al-A-Teen, a support group for teenagers whose friends and family members suffer from addiction. Lia is a neurotic teenage girl with a history similar to Gus’s, and they become important supporters to each other.

Oscar A.L. Cabrera as Gus Green, Michael Gaines as Myron James. Photo by Russ Rowland
Oscar A.L. Cabrera as Gus Green, Michael Gaines as Myron James. Photo by Russ Rowland

By the middle of the play, the audience can pretty much map out the rest of the plot. Rebecca’s big reveal near the end is somewhat predictable, if not underwhelming. I was not clear on how her secret changed the character’s relationships, nor why it was kept such a secret in the first place. There are also a few scenes where lines intended for comic relief or relate-ability fell uncomfortably flat. For example, we enter a scene mid-conversation as Lia and Gus discuss menstruation. Lia shouts that she has to leave because “I’m totally bleeding!”

Leave Me Green’s cast is excellent– well-suited for their roles and able to imbue them with complexity and nuance. Charlotte Booker is exciting to watch as Rebecca. You could truly sense Rebecca’s faltering strength as she scatters the contents of her bag across the floor, looking for her keys, or laughing off Gus’s sincere attempts to communicate. Oscar A. L. Cabrera is also a trustworthy and empathetic hero for the play, play Gus with great sensitivity.

Another hallmark of the production is the set by Jessica Parks. The four corners of the stage represent each character’s unique realm. Rebecca’s kitchen and Myron’s living room face each other across the hall, with Gus’s bedroom downstage left and Lia’s meeting room just opposite. The four locations are distinct but connected, reminding us how each of these characters has something to gain by visiting the others’ corners of life.

Leave Me Green’s characters suffer alone but succeed when together. It’s a clear message for people forging their own families in times of need. As Lia says in a letter to her Al-A-Teen peers, “If we’re here, and afraid- at least we’re not afraid and alone.”

Leave Me Green plays at the Gym at Judson through April 11. Tickets here.

Love and Pride Clash in The Seeing Place’s Modern Day “Othello”

The reliably innovative and earnest Seeing Place Theater company begins its sixth season with a modern take on a Shakespearean classic. Written at a time of growing global markets, bursting urbanization, and an influx of immigrants into London’s commercial hub, Othello is Shakespeare’s race play. Othello is a Moorish (historically Muslim) general in the Venetian army whose recent successes attract the envy of Iago, a fellow soldier. Iago hatches a malicious and complicated plan to ensure Othello’s downfall, manipulating not only Othello’s military reputation but also his recent secret marriage to Desdemona, a senator’s daughter.

Brandon Walker (Iago), Ian Moses Eaton (Othello) and Logan Keeler (Cassio) Photo by Justin Hoch
Brandon Walker (Iago), Ian Moses Eaton (Othello) and Logan Keeler (Cassio) Photo by Justin Hoch

I came to this production with criminally little knowledge about Othello. A co-worker once gave me the run-down of the plot a few years ago. Plus, I knew that Desdemona on Gargoyles got her name from the play.  I was worried that the production would go right over my head and I’d be in for nearly three hours of mindless observation. I generally don’t understand Shakespeare unless I have read the plays before, and this fact did not bode well for my night.

However, I am happy to report that Othello was extremely accessible and quite accommodating to the new viewer and Shakespeare fanatic alike. Barring some of the military plot twists (and who really pays much attention to those anyways?), I was able to comprehend near everything in the play and leave satisfied with having digested the play’s nuances and complexities.

Much of this credit is attributable to the production’s cast. Ian Moses Eaton gives a tremendous portrayal of Othello’s descent into paranoia, extremism, and jealousy. The gentlemanly and stalwart leader of the play’s start is crippled emotionally and physically into a crippled and confused villain. Company founders Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker also contribute greatly to the production’s energy. Cronican is a naturally sympathetic Desdemona. Her presence onstage edifies the scenes around her with genuine sincerity. Walker takes on Iago with slick relish. His monologues felt a bit rushed at times (I caught up on the schemes I missed in the later scenes) but he works extremely well with his dialogue. His undercover Iago is humble and non-suspect. If you blink and miss the sinister glint in his eye, you’d immediately overlook him.  I felt like the strongest scene of the production takes place with Othello and Iago at their desks, filing paperwork. It is in this banal, almost domestic setting that Iago plants the first seeds of doubt into Othello’s mindful poise, and watching the scene evolve was a thrill.

Erin Cronican (Desdemona), Ian Moses Eaton (Othello), Brandon Walker (Iago) and John D'Arcangelo (Brabantio). Photo by Justin Hoch
Erin Cronican (Desdemona), Ian Moses Eaton (Othello), Brandon Walker (Iago) and John D’Arcangelo (Brabantio). Photo by Justin Hoch

As the plot grew increasingly complicated, the production required extra support and structure to see itself through unscathed. The larger scenes were often chaotic and unfocused.  Minor characters and extras were underused in scenes with large groups and some of the background activity was directionless or hastily improvised. Strategic staging in such scenes could have also ameliorated some of the scenes’ confusion, as well as add to the emotional punch of the play’s final deadly minutes. Overall, however, the Othello experience was satisfying one, and I am excited to see what else lies in store for this exciting company’s new season.

Othello plays at The Clarion Theater through March 15. $15 Tickets available here.

Courtship Totally Sucks in ‘You On The Moors Now’

In Pride and Prejudice, the indignant and self-sufficient Elizabeth Bennet rejects Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal, believing him to be the cause of her sister’s failed romance with his friend Bingley. Overwhelmed with the confusion of her existing relationships, she departs for London with her aunt and uncle and slowly learns the truth about Darcy’s benevolent nature, as well as how to temper her severe perceptions with optimistic prudence.

Lizzie, as well as many of her fellow 19th century heroines, must first encounter what she doesn’t want and/or err in her decision-making in order to ultimately make the right decision for her future. Jane Eyre runs from Rochester and finds a new life and new identity on the tumultuous moors, returning to Rochester some time later under vastly different circumstances and with new self-knowledge. Jo March (Little Women) rejects the proposal of her childhood friend Laurie, a seemingly perfect fit for her, and only finds happiness with Professor Bhaer after much anxiety and confusion. Cathy (Wuthering Heights) refuses to marry the wild, passionate Heathcliff, choosing instead the mild, bourgeois Edgar.

Lauren Swan-Potras (Jo), Anastasia Olowin (Cathy), Kelly Rogers (Lizzy), Sam Corbin (Jane) Photo by Suzi Sadler
Lauren Swan-Potras (Jo), Anastasia Olowin (Cathy), Kelly Rogers (Lizzy), Sam Corbin (Jane)
Photo by Suzi Sadler

It’s in this tumultuous haze between disillusionment and satisfaction that Jaclyn Backhaus’s You On The Moors Now places us. Performed by the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble at HERE Arts Center and directed by TRE founder John Kurzynowski, the play begins with a familiar, modern retelling of these classic literary denials. One by one, these young women reject their marriage proposals, mixing contemporary and humorous language with quotes from the original text. Laurie, for example, opts for less romantic efforts to get Jo’s attention: “So here’s the thing, bitch!” then moving into a back-and-forth chorus of “You shut up!” with Jo. The scenes are witty and endearing, swapping (what some might call) rigid, antiquated dialogue for an expressive, impulsive, and youthful meltdown of sorts. The rejections aren’t always the best decisions and the women are fickle and hot-headed with their emotions. You On The Moors Now isn’t so much about women escaping the confining conditions of their love lives but rather about the seemingly never-ending errors and distractions on the road to happiness.

After a strong first half, the second begins to falter. The play departs drastically from the original texts. Set and time no longer exist for the characters– they are unhinged from the 19th century. The women run away from their homes and unite on the moors, forming a coalition to protect their independence. They avoid their regrets and pursue other life goals, such as careers in space exploration and marketing. If we thought that Lizzie and Jane’s choices weren’t difficult enough, imagine if their Victorian limitations disappeared. Throw professional aspirations and other freedoms not previously granted to these women into the mix. Let them figure out which of their thoughts and emotions are most genuine in a contemporary culture saturated with images of other people’s successes and failures. The modern romantic landscape is much like getting lost on the moors.

The men desperately try to retrieve the four women, employing other male literary characters like Edgar, St.John, and Jo’s mother to track them down. The plot loses sight of it focus and begins to sound more like fan fiction (bad fan fiction at that) than a coherent narrative. It’s not that departure from the original texts is not invited. And likewise, I understood the frenzied, rushed nature of the play’s middle act to represent the noncommittal confusion and anxiety of the characters’ emotional lives.  Theoretically, the play’s structure and content work so intuitively together– I just wished the second half’s script had something more unique and less cumbersome to say. My dissatisfaction with the direction of the play culminated in the final act, a long scene in which the actors sit in a single line on stage and perform what is essentially a table-reading of the resolution. Leather-bound book in hand, Cathy acts as narrator, reading aloud several pages of quite shallow fiction detailing the characters’ reunion.

Harlan Alford (Heathcliff), Nathaniel Basch-Gould (Laurie), Preston Martin (Darcy), Jon Riddleberger (Rochester) Photo by Suzi Sadler
Harlan Alford (Heathcliff), Nathaniel Basch-Gould (Laurie), Preston Martin (Darcy), Jon Riddleberger (Rochester) Photo by Suzi Sadler

You On The Moors Now is an insightful meditation on living with the uncertainty of our actions and the anxiety of missed love. With a tighter, more cohesive second half, I can see Backhaus’s play become a powerful and nuanced piece.

You On The Moors Now plays at HERE Arts through February 28. Tickets Here.

‘The Essential Straight and Narrow’ Reflects on Life’s Mysterious Repetitions

Time is anything but “straight and narrow” In fact, if you’ve been paying attention lately, the general consensus is that time is a flat circle. I’d venture to say, and I think the Mad Ones’ production of The Essential Straight and Narrow will agree with me, that time is even messier than that. We re-visit our memories, our regrets, our fears, our dreams throughout the course of our lives and repeat many of the same choices and mistakes. Our minds can be anywhere but present in our moment and we are led astray several times even throughout the course of a single day.

In The Essential Straight and Narrow, we first come across Jo (Stephanie Wright Thompson) in an unflattering hotel room. It’s the 1970′s– the wood paneled walls, the high-waisted flare jeans, and the blow-curled hair are nostalgic indicators. Jo is having a heated conversation with a man on the hotel phone, but just when her conversation ends, she begins again, repeating the lines and gestures. We realize she’s rehearsing a script– a conventional cop drama about two detectives who fall in love while working a case. She repeats the scene, making notes in her script and uncomfortably trying different approaches to her lines. Then, the fluorescent lights switch into dimmer reds and we’re in Jo’s memories. Here, Jo is a folk singer and her band-mates, a burly Graham (Joe Curnutte) and a mild-mannered Paul (Michael Dalto), visit her hotel room to practice for an upcoming band tour in the Southwest. Graham has newly returned to the group after splitting up with Jo, and his restored presence causes quite a lot of discomfort in the band’s artistic process and their music line-up. Even though we never actually see the break-up enacted or explained, the excellent script by the ensemble and the direction under Lila Neugebauer plays out its echoes so well that we hardly ever feel its absence. In fact, I felt like I was seeing a repetition of what drove them apart, even though time has certainly elapsed since their breakup.

(l-r) Thompson, Curnette, Bovino, and Dalto
(l-r) Thompson, Curnette, Bovino, and Dalto

The rest of the play alternates between rehearsal scenes and memories. I wasn’t exactly sure what was the relationship between the two parallel depictions. Sometimes it seems like certain moments (the ringing of a phone, a particular line in the cop-drama script) trigger Jo’s memories, and at others the switches come more abruptly. Soon the two worlds bleed into each other  and we learn a bit more about what might have made Jo turn away from her music career.  The play masterly structures its story to create suspense, excitement, and power.  There were two distinct moments in the play where I jumped up in my seat out of surprise, and several more where I felt extremely moved. As much as Straight and Narrow is intelligent and playful in design, it is also wonderfully genuine and insightful about how we treat our relationships, our mistakes, and our cultural moments.

Each member of this ensemble contributes to this playful yet powerful fluid movement. I was a little puzzled by the choice to make the role of Debbie transgender (played by Marc Bovino).  The character is certainly fun and hilarious, but I torn between the idea of laughing with her or laughing at her, since a lot of times it seemed like her comedy was based solely on the fact that she is a man in a dress with a high-pitched, girly voice. Taylor Mac criticized comedy shows (particularly sketch comedies like SNL) on Facebook some time ago, saying that many sketches featuring transgender or homosexual characters relied solely on the fact that these people were trans or gay to produce humor, therefore sending the message that trans and gay people are inherently silly, ridiculous, or abnormal. While Debbie is a much more thoughtful and genuine character than the parodies Mac points to, there were a few points in the play where I felt myself and audience laughing solely at Debbie’s “non-normative” behavior. I would love to hear more about the group’s decision to cast Bovino as Debbie, as well as from anyone who’d like to share thoughts about how transgender characters can be portrayed both sensitively and comedically at the same time.

The Essential Straight and Narrow plays at the New Ohio Theater through June 14. Go see! Highly recommended! And all that other stuff!

Obedient Steel at HERE Arts Center

What happens when the nation’s top scientists are forced to lead ordinary lives after a  botched experiment? In Obedient Steel, a new play from the Tugboat Collective presented at the HERE Arts Center, we trace the downfall of four brilliant young physicists. When we first encounter them, they are beginning their work at a 1950’s era secret lab compound, where they have been charged with the task of creating the world’s most powerful weapon for the U.S. government. About half of the show if devoted to the scientists’ creative, professional, and romantic lives at the compound. It feels a bit like being at a top-secret space camp for adults instead of the restrictive, high-stakes environment we would expect, and that’s part of the reason why the scientists are barred from ever working for the government again after a nuclear test goes awry.

Photo by Suzi Sadler
Photo by Suzi Sadler

But it’s not all bad, eh? I mean, who in the 1950’s doesn’t want a steady job, like teaching high school or selling life insurance, with a beautiful wife in tow and a well-kept suburban home? (Full disclosure, that was my dream life until like, three years ago) Years pass steadily and the scientists find themselves desperate to break away from their new lives.

In a way, Obedient Steel mirrors a lot of the issues facing the current generation as they enter a staggering workforce. The lab compound in the play is a fun, collaborative, learning environment where the researchers do what they’re best at and excel at it. It not only protects government secrets, it protects the men and women in it from the outer world. It’s not unlike a good ol’fashioned colleges experience. Life outside of these institutions can often feel aimless, mundane, and frivolous, particularly for these brilliant minds.

The acting is most engaging in the show’s first half. A great deal of the emotional resonance in the play’s second half comes from some clever stagework that enables us to never  lose focus on the characters’ despair. Since the staging and the excellent dialogue work in tandem so well, I felt like the second act could have been shorter– some scenes felt repetitious or dragged out.  I also wish that the two halves weren’t so starkly different from each other. These scientists are working on the most deadly weapon of all time, for goodness sake, and there is never a portentous tone in the first act nor discussion of the project’s moral repercussions. Similarly, maybe a little humor in the second half could break up some of the reiterating sadness. There are also frequent moments when the characters speak directly to audience members, sometimes handing them props to hold on to or asking for quick yes/no responses. This lightened the mood significantly in the first act, though these moments were too bunched up in the play’s openings scenes. Perhaps spreading moments like these throughout the play would help create a more consistent mood.

Obedient Steel remains, however, a thoughtful piece about what happens when your life is just starting and you’ve already reached your peak. The cast truly bring the characters’ journeys to realistic fruition with the help of some excellent staging and a versatile script. Tickets are available at through November 24!

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